Lifestyle agents get high marks for their service

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NWA WorldVacations clients who avail themselves of the tour operator's luxury vacations to northern California may leave a thing or two behind in Napa or San Francisco but, the charms of pinot grigio and sourdough aside, their hearts just might get left in Minneapolis.

That's because -- apart from upscale accommodations, transportation and activities in California -- the real pampering comes before and after the journey. There's plenty of pre- and post-trip attention from a team of six call center reps dedicated to the Minnesota-based company's Lifestyle collection of luxury and romance packages. 

A recent stay in the City by the Bay, researched at www.nwaworldvacations.com but booked via the (866) 238-5378 Lifestyle line, began and ended with friendly, helpful phone calls from call center staff.

From the get-go, NWA WorldVacations' accessible Lifestyle agents demonstrated an attention to detail and a determination to not only get things right but anticipate needs and demands, as well.

About one month prior to departure, a box arrived with a leather document holder, four luggage tags, an itinerary and travel vouchers. Also included were two complimentary Three-Day Muni Passports, good for unlimited rides on San Francisco's cable cars, historic streetcars, buses and trains.

Representatives phoned several times in the two weeks just before departure to ensure documentation was in order, to answer any questions and to offer help with dinner reservations, theater tickets or activities.

The four-night vacation began with a direct flight, in first class, from New York's LaGuardia Airport to San Francisco on Northwest Airlines, with one stop in Detroit. (Note: Access to Northwest's WorldClubs airport lounges is not included in luxury packages.)

Lifestyle clients have a choice of private limousine transfers or luxury car rentals at their destination. Upon arrival in San Francisco, we collected our choice, a silver Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible from National Car Rental, with no hitches.

Of the five four- to five-star hotels offered in the collection, we opted for the new St. Regis Hotel San Francisco, which is adjacent to the Museum of Modern Art in the trendy SoMa, or South of Market, district. The property is also home to the city's new Museum of the African Diaspora.

Spoiled for choice

The other hotel choices were the Kimpton Argonaut at Fisherman's Wharf, the Omni on Lower Nob Hill, and the Fairmont and the Ritz-Carlton, both on Nob Hill.

Having paid a premium for upper-floor digs in the 40-story tower, we were greeted upon entering our 450-square-foot Grand Deluxe room on the 15th floor with not only a view of the Twin Peaks but a welcome gift of red wine and platter of biscotti, artisanal soft cheese and honey.

The room, decorated in whites and beiges, had a 42-inch plasma TV, a bedside digital assistant and wireless Internet access. The bathroom boasted a 13-inch LCD TV, a deep-soaking tub, a separate shower with rainfall showerhead and high-end personal care products by Remede.

NWA WorldVacations Lifestyle collection guests also enjoy the service of a personal butler, twice-daily housekeeping and an evening turndown.

In the morning, after a rather pricey but mouth-watering breakfast at Vitrine, the on-site restaurant, we began taking advantage of the one optional add-on we booked -- the Go San Francisco Card, which offers free or discounted admission to more than 45 attractions in the Bay Area. We perused the galleries at the Museum of Modern Art and the quirky Beat Museum in North Beach.

We picked up our card, available for one ($45), two ($65) and three days ($99), at the San Francisco Visitor Information Center at 900 Market St.

Other add-ons include a city tour at $43 per person, a hop-on/hop-off cable-car tour ($18) and tours to Monterey and the Aquarium ($81), Muir Woods and Sausalito ($46) and the Wine Country ($62).

Payment for hotel and car rental, with preprinted vouchers mailed in advance by NWA WorldVacations, was hassle-free. However, the visitor info center staff, unfamiliar with the vouchers, were initially hesitant to issue the Go San Francisco Card.

To contact Destinations editor Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected].

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For more details on this article, see "NWA WorldVacations expands roster of luxury products."

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